Widely seen as a prime ministerial candidate, Gujarat Chief
Minister Narendra Modi Monday advocated women's empowerment even
as he took a dig at the Congress and its star leader Rahul Gandhi.
Four days after Gandhi used a CII forum to make a political pitch,
Modi observed at a meeting of the women's wing of industry lobby
FICCI that no human was perfect and he was no different.
"Everyone has some weakness or the other. I too have
shortcomings," Modi said here, and asked people to point out his
weaknesses through the social media.
Asked to reveal his weakness, he said no individual can correctly
"I may have some weakness which I may not be able to see but you
will be able to. if you spot any such weakness (in me), please
convey them through the social media ... so that I can free myself
of my weaknesses."
Modi didn't speak about his prime ministerial ambition but there
was loud clapping and even whistling when one woman asked what he
would do about women's reservation in politics "when you come to
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader used the forum to strongly
advocate women's empowerment, saying only this would help India
become an economic powerhouse.
In his 70-minute interaction, which included questions he took
from the overwhelmingly female audience, Modi took a swipe at both
the Congress and its vice president Rahul Gandhi.
Insisting that Gujarat needed to see much more economic
development, he said he had been busy since assuming office in
2001 filling up the many "pits" left behind by decades of Congress
"So far I have only done the work of filling up the pits," he
said, inviting laughter in the packed venue. "You can imagine what
massive pits the Congress created!"
And while referring to a Gujarati women who popularized her
pizzas, the chief minister underlined that she was no fake
creation unlike "Kalavati", the woman Rahul Gandhi quoted during a
Modi painted a dismal picture of women's status in India even as
he highlighted their entrepreneurial skills and talents and the
need to give them special status in elected bodies.
Female foeticide, he said, had pushed back India to the 18th
century. "As we kept getting modern, our negatives have gone up."
In the 18th century, he said, the girl child would at least take
birth even if she was killed in infancy. Now the girl child is
killed in the womb.
"If we have to build a modern India, then we will have to first
give dignity to the Indian woman." He said the increasingly skewed
male-female ratio was creating a serious social crisis.
Modi revealed some of the steps unleashed in Gujarat to empower
women. These included stamp duty waiver if property was registered
in women's name and making the mother's name mandatory in school
The Gujarat government also provides special status and grants to
villages that elect women sarpanches.
He saluted the role of tribal women in Gujarat in making the
Lijjat papad a household name today. He also praised young tribal
women who have become forest guards at Gujarat's famed Gir forest.
As he did at the Shri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi University
Feb 6, Modi again quoted Mahatma Gandhi in his speech.
While talking about Gujarat's economic successes, he admitted that
a lot more needed to be done.
The chief minister said the Gujarat assembly had passed a
legislation reserving 50 percent of all seats in local bodies to
women, but it was yet to become law as Governor Kamla Beniwal had
not signed it.
"It is our misfortune that it (legislation) is stuck although we
have a woman governor."